Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park

Rainbow Rowell

4.5 / 5 

 

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Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

Oh, Eleanor & Park, you stole my heart! Of course, this Young Adult book is a romance, but the underlying themes of acceptance and belonging make Eleanor & Park so much more than a teenage fling.

It’s hard starting out at a new school, let alone high school. And then there is the dreaded bus. Eleanor gets on and, of course, no one gives up their seat they claimed like eons ago. Standing awkwardly in the aisle, she notices a boy with bangs hanging in his eyes. He slides over. Park doesn’t know why he did it, all his friends he knew since middle school were making fun of the strangely dressed new girl, but he moved over.

Bonding over comics and great music, Eleanor & Park find common ground with each other. While others are cruel and unkind, they find acceptance in each other, although it’s hard for them to believe it at times. At sixteen, Eleanor has had it rough at home and can’t believe that somebody would truly see her as someone of worth. Park is trying to live up to his parents’ high standards. 

Rainbow Rowell does a super job of contrasting these two teens, as well as their families. And when she allows them to fall in love – it becomes beautiful and fearful, but ever hopeful.

I loved being back in the ‘80s with Eleanor & Park, the making of mixed tapes, walkmans, the great music, but being in high school, not so much. 

I read this one (actually listened to the audiobook) for the #unabridgedpodbuddyread and we are having great discussions.

💥 Do you have a favorite comic book character? I love Batman!

A Breath Too Late

A Breath Too Late

Rocky Callen

4.5 / 5 


*Trigger warnings: suicide, physical abuse, depression. (This review will mention these issues as well).

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Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

This isn’t the first Young Adult book to be about suicide, and it won’t be the last. It is an all too common theme in YA novels, and a sad reality. So what makes A Breath Too Late worth reading? It’s brutally honest and raw. It does not glamorize suicide, in fact just the opposite. 

Seventeen-year-old Ellie has just taken her own life when she “awakes” in a state of limbo. Not fully aware of what happened, she begins to realize she has the ability to still look in on the life she chose to leave. Ellie is now a spectator to the devastation she has left behind.

Momma – now curled in a ball clutching a teddy bear – Ellie’s childhood teddy bear. They were going to fly away together one day, to the mountains, to be free from – him. But now Ellie’s gone.

August – the boy whose art always brightened her dark days. His smile took away her pain if only for a moment. Now Ellie watches as August smashes bottles and cries out her name as he falls into his mom’s arms.

Rocky Callen does a great job of showing that Ellie had times of happiness over her life even though she lived in a terrible environment. She had hopes and dreams, people who loved her, but depression clouded her vision and the weight felt too heavy at times.

Ellie, having this rare opportunity to see other’s perspectives, now wishes she could have: one more smile, one more word, one more touch – just one more breath. There are no second chances in this story; it is a truthful look at the heart-wrenching consequences. Yet, it’s not a completely bleak story. I think it reveals that we should say the words we need to say, ask for the help we need – without shame, and always have hope for a better tomorrow. 

[Please be sure to read the author’s notes.] 

 

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and @henryholtbooks for this advanced copy for review. Get your copy today!

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Gae Polisner

4 / 5 

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Thank you to @stmartinspress and @wednesdaybooks for this advance copy for review.

Remember when being best friends meant lying in the grass on summer days giggling about boys and sharing your deepest secrets? Yeah, so does JL Markham.

JL and Aubrey are best friends until Aubs starts hanging with those other girls in high school. Now they snicker at JL when she walks by. That’s okay, she still has her butterflies and Max. Yeah, JL raises beautiful, tropical butterflies – she loves to watch them come out of their chrysalis and spread their wings. She’s also started dating Max Gordon, a senior. Sure he’s older, experienced, and rides a motorcycle, but he knows poetry and books – things Aubrey and those other girls don’t see in him.

Maybe JL turned to Max because she has no one else. Her father is away on business, indefinitely, and her mother, though stunning, is suffering from a mental illness. Now Max is talking about taking off for California after he graduates. Where does that leave JL? And is her friendship with Aubrey really over, forever? 

When rumors fly about her mother and her own reputation, JL finds she is standing alone; betrayed by those she thought cared. She will have to make some decisions and stand up for herself; it’s time she spread her own wings.

This story took me back to my youth, especially to my female friendships. It reminded me how deep and meaningful they were, but at the same time, how very delicate they could be. The heartbreaking theme of this book is the fragility of loyalties. This is a very compelling and gritty look at adolescent friendships, young love, and family conflict.

Get your copy today! 🦋

 

Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything 

Nicola Yoon

3.5 / 5 ⭐
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Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

Where are my YA fans? I didn’t read about the premise of this book, so I was a little leary when I found it was another “sick kid in love” story. (Apparently, there is a movie adaptation too, glad I didn’t know that before I read it.) Although I’m a fan of this genre, I feel this author has taken a more light-hearted approach, rather than a complex and realistic look at the tough issues many teens face today.

Madeline Whittier had SCID, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease, or “bubble baby disease.” Basically, she is allergic to the world, anything could be a “trigger” to her. She hasn’t left the safety of her home in seventeen years. Her mother along with her nurse, Carla, are her only friends and true human contact. Her mother keeps the house at a certain temperature, with special air filters and the walls are pristine white. Madeline’s mother will do anything to keep her baby girl safe from a world that could make her sick. 

New neighbors move in next door. As Madeline watches out her window, she spies that the family has a boy – an all-black wearing, pale honey tanned boy with ocean blue eyes. Suddenly that boy, Olly, notices her watching him; he smiles and waves and Madeline’s small world just got larger. 

As I mentioned above, this book was definitely more light and breezy than some other YA novels I’ve read. I saw the big picture of this story pretty early on, and the issues at hand were not explored with any great insight. But I enjoyed Madeline and Olly’s banter over IM. I also enjoyed Madeline’s “spoiler reviews” on books; book talk always seems to make things a little better. 

Five Feet Apart

Five Feet Apart

Rachael Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry, and Tobias Iaconis

4.5 / 5 🌟

 

Do you go into a Young Adult book with different expectations? Do you review a Young Adult book differently? I know I do.

I’ve said it before, but over the last year or so I’ve grown to enjoy the Young Adult genre. I love that the authors of today’s YA are not afraid to take on very heavy and relevant topics. As the reader, I must be aware that the characters handling the portrayed life events are much younger than me. They are viewing the world from a different perspective.

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Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

 

Why did I say all this? Because in Five Feet Apart, Stella and Will are two very sick kids who meet in one of their many hospital stays. They both are at the end stages of CF (Cystic Fibrosis). They know the rule: six-feet apart at all times; they cannot risk the chance of further infection to their lungs, or it could be a death sentence. Both Will and Stella have known so much pain, isolation, and heartbreak in their less than eighteen years. But Stella decides to steal something back from this disease, a new rule: five feet apart at all times. 

Yes, this book has the angsty teenage love in it we’ve come to expect in YA, but this is on a whole different playing field. At first, I had some concern with how the adults were portrayed. But then the dynamic shifted, and the authors did a beautiful job revealing how this disease was affecting the parents too. Even to the point where the kids didn’t understand why their parents did and said the things they did.  

This is why I go into YA with different expectations. Imagine falling in love for the first time and having to stay five feet apart at all times? Having the constant fear of death lingering about you? It’s hard enough just being a teenager. 

 

We Were Liars

We Were Liars

By E. Lockhart

3.5 / 5 ⭐

 

“Can I hold your hand? The universe is seeming really huge right now, I need something to hold on to.”


Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

We Were Liars is the story of the Sinclair Family. A wealthy family that summers on their own island off the coast of Massachusetts. A family whose patriarch, Harris Sinclair is a demanding dictator to his children and grandchildren. 

Cadence Sinclair Easton loves coming to Beechwood Island. She loves seeing her cousins Johnny and Mirren every summer, but summer eight is when Gat joins them. He is the nephew of the man dating Johnny’s mom. From that summer on, Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat are known to the family as the Liars.

Summer fifteen, the Liars are back on the island. Gat and Cadence start to feel an attraction towards each other. But Gat is unsettled; he has been to India and has seen how impoverished the world is compared to Harris Sinclar’s little island world. Cadence begins to fall deeper in love with Gat, but Gat warns her that her granddad doesn’t approve of someone like him.

One night Cadence is found by her mother on the beach, half in the water wearing only a camisole and her underwear. She is taken to the hospital. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, and now has migraines. She also can’t recall what happened the night of the accident. Her mother takes her back to Vermont to rest and heal. Cadence reaches out to Johnny and Mirren, but neither answer. Gat never checks in on her. 

Summer seventeen, two years later, Cadence returns to Beechwood Island. She still doesn’t remember the accident and everyone is told not to talk about it. Being on the island starts to bring back her memories piece by piece. As Cadence slowly begins to tell others what she remembers, she realizes some of them are lying.

I can’t say I was totally engrossed in this book, but I did want to know what happened to Cadence that summer. It kept me reading. The relationship between the four Liars was well written and the ending was surprising, but not shocking.

 

All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven

5🌟

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

I’m still walking around in a daze since turning the last page on this one. My emotions are just wrecked. I used to shy away from YA books because I felt they were all bubble gum, angsty teenage love stories. But man, some of them dive headfirst into some heavy topics and take your heart with them. 

Theodore Finch, Finch or Freak, as many of his classmates call him, is standing on the high school’s bell tower. He is contemplating whether today is a good day to die. It’s something he does quite regularly. Then he realizes he is not alone on his ledge. Violet Markey is, or was, one of the popular girls. She was a cheerleader, she was dating “Mr. Handsome,” and she was running her own website. But life changed for Violet a year ago, and now she doesn’t know how to live. Today she’s standing on the ledge with the Freak, Finch.

Finch helps Violet down from the ledge that day, although the world sees it differently. Surely Violet must be the one helping messed up Finch. Finch in all his “finchness,” (which will just endear him to you) coerces Violet to do a school project with him. In their wanderings, Finch helps Violet see life differently. As Violet begins to realize she wants to live, and experience life with Finch; Finch is going under. 

This book deals with the very serious issue of suicide. It deals with how kids can be cruel with their bullying, how families can be oblivious to their own children’s pain, and how an individual can disguise their anguish and torment from the world. Finch’s character is written so well. He’s smart, funny, and creative. He’s the one the jocks beat up, the one his dad hits, and yet Finch thinks about how to make Violet feel special, to give her spring in winter. 

Finch is just trying to stay awake, to stay alive. We get to hear his inner dark, drowning thoughts. This project seems to give Finch something to focus on, and Violet gives him something to stay for – but will it be enough?

✨Make sure you read the author’s notes and acknowledgments as she gives very good information on suicide, bullying, and abuse.